Ring of Honor celebrates its 15th anniversary Friday night with a card that showcases just how good the product has become in recent months: New ROH star Marty Scurll defends his Television title against Lio Rush, Dalton Castle and the Boys look to take six-man gold from the Kingdom, and, most intriguing of all, Christopher Daniels challenges for the ROH World Championship against Adam Cole, after Daniels’ former tag partner and best friend Frankie Kazarian recently turned on him and joined the Bullet Club.
While there’s lots to look forward to on that show, ROH’s anniversary shows are also a good time to look back at some of what the company has done throughout the years. And indeed, some of the names on Friday’s card are all-time ROH greats. Below, we’ve ranked the 15 best Ring of Honor wrestlers of the last 15 years—15 ROH full-time regulars who helped make the company what it is today.
15. Tyler Black
Before joining WWE in 2010, Tyler Black briefly held the top spot in Ring of Honor as their World Champion. But earlier storylines and overwhelming crowd reactions suggested Black could have—and maybe should have—been the star of ROH long before his last six months in the company. A shift in management is a possible culprit in delaying the inevitable: Tyler Black’s ascension as the potential face of ROH started while Gabe Sapolsky was head booker. Plans seemed to change once Sapolsky was replaced with Adam Pearce, but beginning in 2008, it seemed like Black was destined to dethrone Nigel McGuinness as champion. The persistent challenger from Davenport, Iowa came up short twice, but later bested the champ on his third attempt—in a non-title match. That victory led to a final title bout with McGuinness the very next night, which ended in a time limit draw. The trend would continue: After a strong feud against former mentor Jimmy Jacobs, Black would again challenge for the title in a triple threat match, only to come up short again as Austin Aries pinned champion and former ECW competitor Jerry Lynn. At the 8th Anniversary Show, Tyler Black finally succeeded in winning the belt, nearly two years after his initial attempt. It was too long of a wait, but all the same, the man now known as Seth Rollins became an ROH icon in the process. - Michaelangelo Muñiz
14. Low Ki
In the early 2000s, Low Ki was one of the premier wrestlers in the U.S. independent scene. During a very competitive time for freelancers, he was constantly featured in cards with other greats like AJ Styles, Amazing Red and Bryan Danielson. None of them overshadowed Low Ki, not only because of his outstanding wrestling ability but also due to his similarities with characters from Shaw Brothers films or Mortal Kombat games. The combination of his quick speed, leaping kicks and stomps, deep voice and unique body language gave him a signature presence. He looked more like a fighter than a typical wrestler, and he had a reputation as one, too: The “World Warrior” was rumored to perhaps take wrestling a little too seriously. If his opponent wasn’t meeting a certain standard during a match, Ki would strike him harder. When mistakes were made, Ki would hand out receipts—maybe an unnecessarily hard chop, or a kick to the head. Many fans believed this, and went to shows half-expecting it. As extreme as it might sound, it was part of his appeal. But even when he wasn’t “shooting”, the inaugural ROH Champion took pride in making his matches look as hard-fought as possible. During his time in Ring of Honor, Low Ki shared the ring with the likes of Doug Williams, Brian Kendrick, and Jushin “Thunder” Liger. He also holds the distinction of being victorious in the company’s first main event. While having not performed in the company since 2006, this ROH legend is remembered as helping to pave the way for their success. - Michaelangelo Muñiz
13. Roderick Strong
Calling yourself “Mr. ROH” isn’t something you should do lightly, but Roderick Strong never does anything lightly. The 33-year-old “Messiah of the Backbreaker” spent 13 years in Ring of Honor, where he honed his skills as a smashmouth wrestler known for his cockiness and a penchant for stiff chops. Roddy was part of a class of ROH guys—like Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards—for whom the matches felt just a little more real. Strong began his ROH world title reign by defeating the departing Tyler Black, and held on to the title for 189 days. In the last few years of his Ring of Honor run, he and Jay Lethal traded the TV title, helping to cement its importance to the company, and eventually passed the belt on to Bobby Fish, for his first taste of singles gold. Fans didn’t always love Roderick Strong, but they always respected him: Mr. ROH embodied everything great about the company. - Paul DeBenedetto
In the beginning, Ring of Honor’s wrestling was based on sportsmanship and respect. Most competitors shook hands before every match, and grappled fairly, without controversy. Homicide did things a little differently. He was the outlaw of ROH: While possessing the skill to go hold-for-hold with athletes like John Walters and James Gibson, the rugged wrestler from “Bed-Stuy, Do or Die” Brooklyn had no issue using violent measures to eliminate opponents. Taking a page from Abdullah The Butcher’s playbook, Homicide bloodied rivals with forks before finishing them off with a sadistic piledriver variant he called Da Cop Killa. One night, after falling short of becoming World Champion, a frustrated Homicide unleashed a literal ball of fire to Samoa Joe’s face. Later, during a brawl with the Necro Butcher, the unpredictable bruiser commanded the audience to throw dozens of folding chairs in the ring, delivering a vicious piledriver atop the pile.
Despite his seemingly villainous characteristics, Homicide would end up as the unlikely hero of ROH’s classic inter-promotional feud with Combat Zone Wrestling. At Death Before Dishonor IV, the new crowd favorite led his team of colleagues to victory in a melee involving a six-sided cage, thumbtacks, and barbed wire. That same year, Homicide defeated none other than Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Championship in his hometown of New York City. While his reign only lasted a few months, he had already cemented his legacy as one of Ring of Honor’s most dangerous contenders. For the “Notorious187”, the letters ROH stood for “Ring of Homicide.” - Michaelangelo Muñiz
11. Christopher Daniels
The Christopher Daniels resurgence of the past year has been one of the most satisfying arcs going in pro wrestling today. Daniels is an original Ring of Honor talent, having headlined the first show in the company’s history. And what’s even more amazing is that he wasn’t some blue-chipper: “The Fallen Angel” was already a 10-year veteran by the time he faced of against Bryan Danielson and Low Ki to ring in “The Era of Honor.” There’s no question that his knowledge and professionalism benefitted that ROH locker room, and he was consistently positioned as the company’s top heel during the early days of the company. Daniels jumped back and forth between ROH and TNA, and is currently in the thick of what could be his last run in pro wrestling. Here is a man who never made it to WWE, who spent almost an entire career as king of the indies, and who, despite being one of the most iconic names in Ring of Honor, never held the company’s world title. That could all change Friday night, as he challenges Adam Cole at Ring of Honor’s 15th Anniversary pay-per-view. But even if it doesn’t, the past year alone—with Daniels’ incredible promo work and affinity for dramatic storytelling—has been an inspiring coda to an already phenomenal career. If Ring of Honor has a Mount Rushmore, Christopher Daniels is on it. - Paul DeBenedetto